Seizing of soldier prompts wave of outrage

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The Independent Online

Israel's relations with Iran and Syria were further strained yesterday by the news that an Israeli reserve colonel had been captured by Hizbollah guerrillas while he was on a trip to Europe.

Israel's relations with Iran and Syria were further strained yesterday by the news that an Israeli reserve colonel had been captured by Hizbollah guerrillas while he was on a trip to Europe.

It took the Israeli Defence Ministry most of the day to confirm the Islamic guerrilla group's claim that it was holding the man, who is believed by Hizbollah to be a Mossad agent.

Hizbollah has now taken four Israelis hostage in the past two weeks.

Israel's reaction was one of deep anger yesterday: "There is a worldwide campaign of terrorism orchestrated by Iran, and Yasser Arafat will have to decide whether he joins it or not," said Israel's Deputy Defence Minister Ephraim Sneh, who also blamed Syria because it controls Lebanon, which is Hizbollah's base.

Official sources in Israel said the reserve colonel, named by Israel Radio as Elhanan Tannenbaum, was a businessman who was abroad in a private capacity. He is believed to have been travelling in Switzerland and to have had connections in the Arab world.

The Israel Defence Ministry described his capture as a "serious act, which contradicts all norms of international justice".

The circumstances of the hostage-taking were the subject of speculation in Israel, which is still reeling from the capture of three soldiers on the Lebanese border and the lynching of two reserve soldiers in Ramallah last Thursday.

Israel's Channel Two television quoted an unidentified Israeli official who said the latest hostage had been kidnapped in Europe during a business deal and was later transferred to Hizbollah.

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